`Tis the season for graduation speakers to start preparing remarks as they’ll soon populate podiums across the land, hoping to reach the hearts of our freshest graduates buried under all those layers of polyester.
The folks over at National Public Radio know the power of a really good graduation speech and have searched odd nooks and crannies of the internet to compile what they’ve called, “The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever” webpage. Indeed, the site lists an incredible array of speeches, featuring more than 350 authors, actors, athletes, and politicians. From Amy Poehler to Zadie Smith, there’s a rich catalog to explore.
Although the NPR page is almost a year old, I learned about it just last week from the wonderful Sunny Williams over at Teachers Pondering. (Thanks for spreading the word, Sunny!)
The site is a honey hole of great speeches and I wanted to find a way to use this resource to benefit my students. The result? I built a print-and-go worksheet that students can complete while viewing any of the speeches. Click here to grab a FREE copy. (Does it look familiar? Yup, I just did a little nip-tuck on my ol’ reliable TED Talk sheet.)
There are many ways to use this graduation speech handout, including:
• Show a specific commencement address in class and have students complete the worksheet.
• Take your whole class to the computer lab, have students plug in their earbuds, and complete the worksheet on any of NPR listings that you’ve pre-selected.
• Use this as a flipped video homework assignment, where students watch an assigned video at home (or allow them to choose one on their own) and complete the worksheet.
An unexpected (and lovely) feature on the site is that it allows us to search by theme, making it easy to use some of these pieces as supplemental material for larger units we already teach. For example, under the “fight for equality” theme, you’ll find 17 options from notables such as Gloria Steinem, John Legend, Meryl Streep, Sheryl Sandberg, Wynton Marsalis, and many others. There are also speeches on other themes by Barbara Kingsolver, Billy Collins, Elie Wiesel, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ray Bradbury, and Stephen King – all writers taught on my campus.
Most of the speeches on the site are in video format, though a few are text or audio-only. If you’re hunting for a video to use with the handout, be sure to look for listings with a camera icon. Most of the videos are between 15 and 30 minutes, though some run almost an hour. I obviously haven’t watched all of the 350+ speeches on the site, but the ones I have watched are all school appropriate. As always, you should preview any materials you plan on sharing with your students to determine appropriateness for your classroom.
Hope you enjoy this fun and useful tool that’ll get all of us one day closer to graduation. Teach on, everyone!